On December 7th 2008 the television show Leverage premiered with the episode The Nigerian Job, where former insurance agent Nate Ford makes a deal with Victor Dubenich to steal back airplane designs, from a competitor, using a team of thieves (Eliot Spencer: Hitter, Alec Hardison: Hacker, and Parker: Thief). After the job is complete the truth of Dubenich’s scheme comes to light and the team decides to get revenge, with the help of Sophie Deveraux: Grifter.
Nate Ford and his band of thieves work together to “provide leverage” to the less fortunate by taking down the wealthy folks — or corporations — that have wronged them. The main phrase of the show is “The rich and powerful take what they want. We steal it back for you. Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys. We provide…Leverage.”
The show is made up of only 77 episodes, the finale airing on December 25th 2012. It stars Timothy Hutton, Gina Bellman, Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf, and Aldis Hodge. It was created by Dean Devlin and John Rogers.
During its run Leverage took the #1 spot for ratings in its timeslot for ad-supported cable television, becoming TNT’s best original series, after just the premiere. Their average seemingly stayed around 3–4 million viewers each season.
While the show ran on a fairly consistent formula, as many other character driven narratives, each episode was unique and fun to be a part of as they were all fresh and interesting cases. The true evolution of the show would be best seen within the characters. Each character is flawed and real which is very well projected in their struggles and their “main” interests.
Nate deals with addiction and, during the first two seasons, the shedding of his old life as an “honest man”. Nate, while his areas of expertise are broad, he has a very special appreciation for the inner workings of the human mind. This isn’t explicitly said or touched on, except for in the reveal of his mastermind plans, where manipulation of the mind is key.
Sophie’s struggles are found with her identity. As a grifter over the years Sophie has gone through various I.D. changes (Katherine, Annie, Felicity, Charlotte, Christy…even the name Sophie itself). Throughout the series she does her best to settle into who she really is as Sophie Deveraux, even sharing her real name with the team. But her passions fall with theatre, naturally. Her acting skills on stage are…less than mediocre. But that’s why she comes to realize directing is more her speed (when she’s not breaking the law, that is).
When we meet Eliot he doesn’t trust anyone. His life has been a mysterious mountain of pain and jumping through violent hoops into volcanoes. We see his mistrust mostly in seasons 1 and 2 but continue to see flickers of doubt throughout the rest of the series. There are also briefly touched family issues that indicate him being outcast by his father. While his main role is the “Hitter” and he is an excellent fighter, his unexpected love is for food. He took up cooking after meeting a chef in his past who taught him “how to hold a knife”. To Parker he says “Some people could look at it and see just food, but not me. I see art. When I’m in the kitchen, I’m — I’m creating something out of nothing. You know what I mean? And sometimes, I crush it. Sometimes, it’s crap. But either way, it makes me feel something.” (S5E4)
Hardison deals with overconfidence when things go well followed by an immediate negativity spiral anytime something gets more difficult. His geeky ways are made fairly obvious. He loves technology, computers, video games, TV shows (Doctor Who, specifically), and all things “geek”. As he says “It’s the age of the Geek.”
Parker’s theme through the entire series is very robotic. She wasn’t raised like a normal kid; she was trained to be the perfect thief. Her mentor never taught her how to socialize with “normal” people. Her interests are left rather ambiguous. In season 5 episode 4 she begins to question why she doesn’t have a thing, to Nate she says, “I don’t have a thing…Eliot has a thing. He loves food. Sophie loves theater. You have a sicko love of controlling people…” But even as that episode concludes we still don’t know for sure where she stands.
Not only are the characters well-developed but the actors who portray them are exceptionally talented and do a marvelous job of bringing them to life. Along with the initial character, each actor must also bring their various identities to life as that character would. One of my personal favorites is from season 3 episode 6 “The Studio Job” with Parker and Hardison.
Leverage was an excellently written masterpiece with both comedic and serious tones. For it to be cancelled after only a few seasons is a real pain to those that love it. In 2013 it even became the first ever cancelled TV show to win a People’s Choice Award, against shows like “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Walking Dead” which shows how passionate the fanbase is. Even now you will find hundreds of comments on any of Dean Devlin’s posts asking for a Leverage reboot or movie. It was underappreciated, by TNT, and completely robbed of its spot on their network.